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Recycling Upended & What You Can Do to Recycle Right

Tips to Take and Common Mistakes to Avoid

The Status Quo Is Unsustainable - The Need For Clean Streams Is NOW

Meridian Waste is proud to be your environmental services provider. Unfortunately, a recycling crisis is sweeping the U.S. and frustratingly, it’s impacting virtually all of the communities in which we provide service. World market conditions and current contamination levels have forced many processors into an unsustainable model to continue operating as before.

Recycling is a true cycle and requires viable buyers of non-contaminated processed materials to be a truly sustainable system. We need your help to clean up the recycling stream if we are going to continue to provide the service to homes and businesses. Read these helpful tips and common mistakes so you can do your part to Recycle Right.

Always check your local governments’ garbage & recycling guidelines for specific information about your recycling services as they can vary greatly from one community to another.

Cta Contamination 1
Contamination is when items that should be landfilled or reused via other outlets are tossed in with your curbside recycling
- the remnants of a greasy pizza box, paper cups, batteries, plastic bags, yard debris and even clothes are common offenders
Cta Contamination 2
For every 2,000 pounds of material collected, about 450 pounds is contaminated.
Know and Rinse Before You Throw!

It’s extremely important to put materials in the cart or bin that actually belong there. You can do your part to reduce the contamination of clean recycling materials by separating those with organic material or food waste on them.

Acceptable Items
Aluminum Cans & Metal Containers
Plastic bottles, Jars, Jugs & Containers
Unacceptable Items
Plastic Bags
Any Plastic Bags
Food Waste
Food Waste or Liquids
Common Recycling Offenders

Toss these items in with the garbage or research alternative recyclers/disposal options for specific stand alone items, and you’re doing a big part to clean up the stream.

* Needles and lithium batteries, in particular, should never be disposed of within the trash or recycling container as they can cause infectious harm or fires.

Plastic Shopping Bags
Plastic Shopping Bags
These are the most common items that should not be in a recycling bin or cart AND the most harmful. Plastic grocery bags get caught up in the recycling machinery and can cause the entire system to shut down so they can be manually removed. If you wish to recycle plastic bags, most grocery stores have a specially designated bin for unwanted plastic bags. Otherwise, place them in the garbage.
Pizza Boxes
Pizza Boxes
One of the most common offenders! Although they are made of cardboard, the grease and food waste from the pizza contaminates the cardboard. If you want a gold star from Mother Earth, tear off the untarnished or clean parts and recycle them!
Take Out Boxes
Take Out Containers & Donut Boxes
Another food residue offender are take-out containers and those delicious baked goodies boxes. Only recycle these if they are free of food waste and residue from food like icing.
Milk Juice Cartons
Milk & Juice Cartons
These beverage cartons are often coated with a thin wax layer and thus cannot be recycled by many haulers or recycling facilities.
Polystyrene (Styrofoam)
Single-stream recycling facilities are not equipped with the specialized equipment to recycle Styrofoam so toss it in with your garbage.
Baby Diapers
Yep, this makes the list of common offenders. The plastic from diapers cannot be salvaged and it’s just plain disgusting!
Wet Paper
Wet Paper
Take care to cover your recyclables to keep them safe from elements like rain and snow. Wet paper should be discarded with the trash, because once it’s wet it’s difficult or impossible to recycle - and a total mess.
Aerosol Cans
Aerosol Cans
Don’t be fooled by the metal! Chemicals are used to pressurize these cans earning them the classification of household hazardous waste, which means they cannot be placed in with recyclables or with the garbage. These must be taken for disposal with other household hazardous waste.
Hypodermic Needles*
Help us keep our workers safe and not expose them to illness or blood borne diseases. Properly dispose of used needles and do not put them in the recycling.
Household Glass
Household Glass & Pottery
Glass items like mirrors, window panes, light bulbs, dishes, and flower pots are not recyclable at the curb and could be dangerous. Light bulbs can often be recycled at hardware and home improvement stores. Consider donating gently used items to someone else who can reuse them. One man’s trash is another’s treasure!
Automotive Fluids
Automotive Fluids, Car Batteries*, Diesel Fuel, Gasoline, Kerosene, Paint, and Pesticides
All not recyclable. All hazardous. These must be taken for disposal to a hazardous waste disposal facility.
Shredded Paper
Shredded Paper
This can be a confusing one. While regular copy paper is recyclable, shredding paper reduces its size so dramatically that it cannot be sorted at the facility. Because the machines sort broken glass and other debris by size, the shredded paper often gets destroyed or disposed of because it ends up in the wrong place and cannot be recycled properly.
Automotive Parts
Automotive Parts & Scrap Metals
If it can’t fit in a cart or bin, then safe to say it cannot be recycled. Car parts and scrap metal would do a number on the recycling machinery and could hurt our workers, too.

Recycling In Need of Restructure

A Meridian Waste white paper addressing the crossroads of recycling sustainability in the United States. 

Download Whitepaper


An Unsustainable Path: Restructuring the Recycling Industry, written by Meridian Waste

“Rethinking Recycling: How Cities Can Adapt to Evolving Markets,” written by National League of Cities (NLC)



China confirms expanded import ban starting Jan. 1, Resource Recycling, December 1, 2020

ISRI Offers Overview of the State of Recycling Before U.S. House Recycling Caucus, September 25, 2019

9 Things You Think Are Environmentally Friendly — But Aren’t, Waste Advantage, August 12, 2019

As Costs Skyrocket, More U.S. Cities Stop Recycling, The New York Times, March 16, 2019

Piling Up: How China’s Ban on Importing Waste Has Stalled Global Recycling, Yale Environment 360, March 7, 2019

Since china’s ban, recycling in the us has gone up in flames, Wired, February 27, 2019

How small cities around the country are fighting to save recycling, Waste Dive, January 28, 2019

The Era Of Easy Recycling May Be Coming To An End, Five Thirty Eight, January 10, 2019

New Chinese policy is forcing people to think: Is there a better way to recycle?, Public Radio International, December 14, 2018

Single-Stream Recycling (and China) Throwing Recycling Markets Into Chaos, Next City, December 3, 2018

St. Louis suburbs find recycling solutions after major MRF halts service, Waste Dive, November 2, 2018

Recycling, Once Embraced by Businesses and Environmentalists, Now Under Siege, Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2018

China’s Recycling Regulations: How American Cities Can Benefit, Waste 360, September 26, 2018

Mountains of US recycling pile up as China restricts imports, Public Radio International, January 1, 2018

Industry Builds the Future of Recycling Amid China Ban Woes, Waste 360, June 29, 2018

What Chinese import policies mean for all 50 states, Waste Dive, June 29, 2018

How to Place Carts Curbside

Close cart lid, point handle away from street, place on edge of street. Keep cart 3 feet away from all objects.

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